Thursday, September 10, 2009

State of the Race: New Jersey Governor (9/10/09)

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As the calendar has turned from August to September, there is some evidence that the Garden state race for governor is tightening. And it isn't so much that Jon Corzine is gaining on Republican Chris Christie so much as it is a case of the Christie campaign showing some signs that the recent flurry of negative attention is bring the former US attorney back to earth. In fact, the Rasmussen data reflect a rather inflated sense of the race on both sides by including the firm's infamous "leaners" (undecideds or third party supporters who tip their hands in Rasmussen's view as to who of the two major party candidates they lean toward). Now, there's nothing wrong with the leaners per se -- Rasmussen made a similar switch down the stretch in the presidential race a year ago -- but during the summer the inclusion of the leaners really serves to inflate the amount of support each candidate has. Once fall dawns, though, their inclusion makes a bit more sense.

But how much of a difference are we talking about? The switch from leaners to no leaners has on average meant a four point gain for Christie and a 3.3 point bump for Corzine. No, that doesn't change the spread that much but it has for the entire summer kept Christie at or around the 50% mark in these polls. And on top of that Rasmussen mentioned in the poll write up that the eight point spread in the reported poll dropped to four in the "without leaners" version of the survey. And for all intents and purposes, that means that Christie likely would have had more of a drop in that transition than would have Christie. The effect is that Christie, in that version, likely would have dropped below the 45% mark. And that would be the first time since January that the Republican has had that small a share of support in a Rasmussen survey.

What does that mean? Well, Corzine still isn't making any jump in any of these polls, but as Mark Blumenthal at Pollster mentioned last week, the incumbent hasn't moved that much all year. All the movement has been on the Christie side. He rose and peaked in the summer and has been tracking downward of late. And what that really means is that, despite the fact that Corzine's numbers haven't budged all year, the Democrat is now more likely to pull off the Democratic comeback that has been typical of recent Senate and presidential races but has not really manifest itself in a gubernatorial race since Brendan Byrne mounted a charge in the 1977 race.

2009 New Jersey Gubernatorial Race Polling
Margin of Error
Sept. 9, 2009
+/- 4.5%
500 likely voters
Democracy Corps [pdf]
Sept. 8-9, 2009
+/- 4%
615 likely voters

But Rasmussen wasn't the only polling outfit to release a survey today. [It was the most noteworthy, but not the only one.] Democracy Corp/GQR also found a tight race. But the three point spread is the same as it was a few weeks ago, though both candidates have dropped three points each since that point. All that essentially does is raise the specter of Chris Daggett in the race. If both candidates are regressing, then the independent is on the rise because the undecided total is not increasing at this late date. However, these are just two polls with Daggett crossing over into double digit support. It could be an anomaly or it could be a trend, but one thing seems to be sure: the independent with the great web ad is negatively affecting Corzine more so than Christie (or has to this point).

So how do these polls affect FHQ's graduated weighted average? Christie continues to drop closer to the 46% mark while Corzine is still camping out in the 37-38% range. That isn't significant change, but it is the state of the race in early September.

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Recent Posts:
FHQ Reading Room (9/10/09): Redistricting

It's Never too Early for a 2012 (Value Voters) Straw Poll

New Members on the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee

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